Friday, April 06, 2007

Enemy combatants

Ask yourself what would America do if we had picked up a boat full of bearded Muslims with weapons in US territorial waters. The options would likely involve either years of "coercive interrogation" in a cage in Guantanamo or a secret tour of ex-soviet torture chambers in Eastern Europe, so it amazes me when CNN tries to play up the mistreatment of the British sailors picked up by Iran in their waters.

Compared to the fate of people picked up on the streets of Afghanistan or Canadian or European citizens picked up on circumstantial evidence or sheer whimsy, they got off easy. As the US has long anointed itself with the power to intercept shipping anywhere and has seized citizens of many countries including its own, holding them without charges, often in solitary confinement and often with torture - who the hell are we to assume such an attitude?


d.K. said...

Our credibility on this issue is zero - and the whole world knows that. We somehow managed to hold the high ground, at least in the West, for many years, despite our Janus-faced positions in the past regarding the authority of international law, or the ICJ, but Bu$h and company has squandered any remaining credibility and leverage we managed to retain, despite our long-stated disdain and disregard for international law.

I remember Reagan citing the UN's authority when it was convenient, and then dismissing it whenever it was inconvenient.

The following case is the one where, in explaining international law to undergraduates, I used to tell them that all countries are equal under it, but some, like us, are more equal than others. It involved our mining of Nicaragua Harbor during the 1980s:

"Nicaragua won a historic case against the U.S. at the International Court of Justice in 1986 (see Nicaragua v. United States), and the U.S. was ordered to pay Nicaragua some $12 billion in reparations for violating Nicaraguan sovereignty by engaging in attacks against it. The United States withdrew its acceptance of the Court and argued it had no authority in matters of sovereign state relations."

"In addition, the U.S. noted that Cuba and the Soviet Union also unfairly committed exactly the same alleged violation against Nicaraguan sovereignty by providing training and ammunition to Sandinistas while Somoza was in power. The U.S. government, standing on this arbitrary principle, refused to pay restitutions, even when a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the matter had been passed." (Source Wikipedia).

Two wrongs make a right.

Shortly thereafter, the UN was cited as the controlling authority authorizing our invasion of Kuwait to expel the Iraqi military, and it seemed to work. We walked a fine line for a long while, but citing international law to back up any of our arguments is now viewed almost universally in the international area as clownish, at best, and impossibly duplicitous and insincere.

Capt. Fogg said...

It's part of the patriotic myth of American exceptionalism. We're the greatest country on earth and so anything we do is beyond criticism. It's worked for a long time and critics have been dismissed as unpatriotic supporters of "the enemy"
or as "revisionists"

It ain't wrong if we do it.